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Al Bello/Getty Images
What would the London Olympics have been without Michael Phelps?
America's swimming legend announced before competition in the U.K. that this would be his last Olympics ever. Of course, we know what happened next: Phelps' 2012 swan song would make him the most decorated Olympian of all time with a whopping 22 medals under his cap.
Take a look back at the big moments of Phelps' final run before his newly minted retirement.
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1. Flag Flap: A week before the games, Phelps wasn't exactly thrilled with the new Team USA wardrobe, which for reasons unknown to him and his teammates did not sport American flags on both the front and side of their swimcaps. He took to Twitter to vent his frustration, but he could blame the change on those flag-averse folks at the International Olympic Committee, who instituted the new restrictions.
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2. Shock to the System: Perfection is an impossible standard to live up to, especially after Phelps cemented his god-like status with eight straight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing games. So expectations were high that the now-27-year-old athlete would repeat the feat in seven races race in London. In his first pool outing on July 28, it turned out Phelps did not, instead finishing fourth behind teammate Ryan Lochte, Thiago Pereira of Brazil and Kosuke Hagino of Japan. The result wasn't what fans had in mind—it was the first time he hasn't medaled at an Olympics since 2000—but it's notable nonetheless as Michael showed he is, after all, human. "It was just a crappy race," he later told NBC.
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3. Need for Speed: Phelps bounced back on July 31 in his signature swim, the 200-meter butterfly, though not entirely in Beijing form. He had to settle for a silver medal this time behind South African swimmer Chad le Clos after losing the gold by five one-hundreths of a second when his rival edged him to the wall and Phelps glided long—an almost exact reversal of Michael's come from behind victory in the last stroke over Serbian Milorad Cavic in Beijing. While Phelps left the water in shock, the second place finish earned him his 18th medal overall, tying Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most medals ever won by an Olympian. And lets not forget about those tweets of support from Mr. Bad MoFo himself, Samuel L. Jackson. Not a bad consolation.
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4. The Comeback Kid! An hour later, Phelps nabbed his first gold in London after anchoring the 4x200-meter freestyle. The medal propelled the Maryland native past Latynina's 48-year-old record, making Phelps the most decorated Olympian in history with 19 medals and earning him a call from none other than President Barack Obama.
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5. Three in a Row! On Aug. 2, the Baltimore Bullet scored his 16th gold medal after beating Lochte in the 200-meter individual medley, otherwise known as the "duel in the pool." The win earned Phelps the great distinction of being the first male swimmer to win the same event in three straight games. But that's not his only threepeat.
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6. One More Time: For the last individual race of his career, Phelps swam the 100-meter butterfly to perfection. In doing so, he handily beat his rival Le Clos and Russia's Yevgeny Korotyshkin and won the event for the third straight Olympics in a row.
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7. Take a Bow, Michael! For his Aug. 4 final Olympics swim, Phelps participated in the 4x100-meter medley relay, and he and his teammates reigned supreme. It was his 18th gold medal and 22nd overall, a record unlikely to be broken anytime soon (if ever). After a London 2012 haul of four gold and two silver medals, Phelps is inarguably the Michael Jordan of the swim world.
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8. Be Like Mike: Speaking of his idol, when interviewed by NBC after his final victory, Phelps cited the other Michael and the way the basketball legend went out on top as his longtime inspiration. With that in mind, Phelps announced what he had long forecast:Tthe London Olympics would be his last as a professional swimmer, and despite his mother's hints at a run in Rio De Janeiro in 2016, he would be going as an outsider looking in.
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9. And Now for Something Completely Different—a Girlfriend! Mr. Medal earned himself even bigger props in the romance department. Capping his record-breaking week, Phelps went public with his relationship with 25-year-old Megan Rossee, a model from Los Angeles, when the two made their red carpet debut at a Speedo event last Monday.